The State of the Church in the Sixteenth Century

from Oct 12, 2019 Category: Ligonier Resources

Was the church in Martin Luther’s time healthy? In this brief clip from his teaching series A Survey of Church History, W. Robert Godfrey explains why that is often a challenging question to answer. Watch this entire message for free.

Transcript

The church itself in the early 16th century is undergoing changes and challenges and we can perhaps say, although this is of little interest to most people, that the state of the church in the early 16th century remains a challenge to historians in the sense that we know lot about what was going on in the early 16th century, but there’s a debate amongst historians as to whether the church was healthy or unhealthy in the early 16th century and it depends a little bit as to how you judge health or lack of health.

Is the church in America healthy today? Now, you see that’s a hard question to answer. Isn’t it? If you judge health by attendance, by contributions, by building activity, we could probably say that the church is pretty healthy in America today. Lot of people going to church certainly compared to Europe, lot of money going to Christian causes, lot of building going on and that was true in the early 16th century. Lot of people went to church, lot of money being given to churches, lot of building going on. But was the church spiritually healthy? Of course, that’s a matter of whose notion of spirituality you hold to. Some historians want to say the church wasn’t really very healthy because piety was so external. People just thought by going through the motions they were getting closer to God and that wasn’t healthy. And that’s certainly true to significant extent, but there were a lot of teachers in the church who were teaching people that that kind of externalism was in fact healthy.